Sunday, April 5, 2020

Quarantine Queries, #2: How can I stay centered?

This week's quarantine query:"How do I stay centered amidst all the uncertainty?"

I find that during this anxious time filled with a steady outpouring of information that is constantly changing, I am leaning on spiritual practices that I have been introduced to over the past couple of years. My practices are inconsistent and very imperfect, often interrupted by the other people in my house, but they are still helpful. God can do so much with our imperfect offerings.

These days, my emotions and mental state are a roller coaster--I feel fine for a few hours, the better part of a day, and then suddenly anxiety surfaces. Recently I took a moment to sit quietly before God and was amazed at how immediately I felt God's presence. I realized that I need this spiritual discipline (centering prayer) in order to practice allowing my body and heart to remember what my mind knows: God is with us. When I struggle to trust the information coming from my mind, perhaps I can learn to trust my body and heart. I'm answering this week's quarantine query in the form of a poem because sometimes writing in verse helps me to get out of my head and into my heart and body.



Epidemic

I know the signs by now.

Help!

Bring me back to myself, 
I pray.

The swirling uncertainty within me 
is now mirrored by the world without.

How can I go outside of myself 
to get what I need,
when outside of myself 
is just as tumultuous?
Noise, news,
pain, panic,
story after story after story so textured,
they bleed together liked watercolors and 
fill in the rough sketches of my mind
as it effortlessly paints detailed pictures of 10,000 what-ifs.

I should stop inhaling the stories, right?
But then how will I know what’s coming?
How can I prepare for 10,000 what-ifs
without reading 10,000 stories?
I can’t stop myself from reading them.
I put them on like clothing, 
placing myself within them 
to see what I would do.
Could I stand the suffering?

Of course, I knew he was essential,
but now Dallas county does, too.
To my husband as he leaves for work:
We have Tylenol, right?
They’re saying not to use Ibuprofen, 
though the reports are conflicting.
And we have cough medicine?
And nausea medicine?
And Gatorade?
And chicken soup?
And a thermometer?
And a teledoc?

and, 
and, 
and…
Sanitize your groceries
Disinfect your doorknobs and light switches
Dispose of the outside packaging from Amazon
And letters from loved ones
whose love might be tainted with infectious disease.

Wash your hands for 20 seconds.
I pretend it’s a thousand massages a day for my fingers—
they’ve never felt so loved.
Let the counting add some rhythm to the dissonance.
Wipe down your screens,
Stay 6 feet apart—but only if you must go out—
Wear a mask,
Wear gloves,
Wear goggles,
And cover every part that makes you human.

Stay at home,
Hop on Zoom for the tenth time this week,
FaceTime with the grandparents
and remind them of these simple 
Rules for Staying Alive.

Sanitize your life
so that you will be safe, safe, safe
Safe safe safe safe
safesafesafesafesafesafesafesafesafe

Stop.

Breathe, 2, 3, 4,
And out, 6, 7, 8

Someone 
is here with you, 
waiting to be remembered.
My head remembers, always—
You were ingrained in my thoughts from the beginning.
My mother and father sang of You to me
before I drew my first breath.

But this body, 
my body,
Forgets.

My jaw clamped shut,
Shoulders drawn up,
Stomach churning,
Muscles burning—

This body 
forgets.

My heart leaps forward
to go get what it thinks I will need
out there.
Feeling judgy feelings about my anxious body,
tense as it is.
Body and heart at war with my mind,
as it is rationally explaining irrational thoughts.

I used to dismiss you, body,
Or try to reason with you
Or blame out there
for in here.

I’m so sorry.

Now I know you were only giving information,
just like my feelings were doing—
giving feedback
to help me to survive. 
But it’s ok now;
I’ll listen.

Close my eyes,
Breathe again…

You’re here.

Emmanuel.

I feel You enshrouding me with Yourself,
closer than the air I’m breathing.

Jaw relaxes,
Shoulders drop,
Stomach stills.
When I stop
my body remembers.

I check in with heart:
Do you remember?
I wait.

Peace.

My heart remembers.

When we all remember
that You are here,
I can finally finally finally say
It is well with my soul.

Help me— body, heart, not-just-mind—
Remember
as You re-member me,
putting me back together,
returning me to myself
until all that’s left is 
love,

Love,

Love.
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